Movie: Gayby Baby
First-time feature director Maya Newell has a voice of maturity beyond her years. This film is an achievement in telling the stories of four Australian children, and their parents, who are all same-sex couples. The kids are great kids: loving and empathetic, and – as one of them says jokingly, occasionally pure evil.
Watching it as a parent I saw the unflinching insights into family life. Disciplining kids, encouraging siblings to play together, the role of faith in family life, all are covered with a degree of sensitivity. By not focusing on the aspect of rejection and bullying, the film makes its anti-bullying message stronger. There are sources of pain in people’s lives in the film, many of them just hinted at. These are people who live in the real world, with its brokenness, making their way through.
There are definitely agendas at play here, and the film is trying to push particular messages: the need to change laws around same-sex marriage and adoption as well as its more winsome call for us to empathise with the kids, and make their lives less fraught with bullying.
By putting a human face on the issue through its stories, it seems likely that this movie will have an effect in changing the minds of the “undecideds”. There is some faith-related content in the film – not as demonised as it might be, though perhaps the presentation of Christians in the film is such that you can read into them your own experience and opinions.
If you find the on-screen portrayal of same-sex relationships offensive, then you will find this film offensive, but the director has taken care to present even the shows of affection to such displays that parents might make in front of their kids (occasional brief kissing and laying down on a couch to talk while leaning in each other). Also, if you were thinking about showing it to very young kids, there are some lessons about Santa and the Tooth Fairy you may want to be aware of.
This is the work of a talented film-maker, capturing a slice of Australian life that is not often represented on screens. I suspect it’s been seen a lot more due to the surrounding controversy than it would otherwise have been, and from the sound of the Q&A, it will continue to be used in efforts both to reduce bullying, and to reshape family law in Australia.